The word makes people cringe. Men, especially, but for a completely different reason than mine. In the shower, my hair is pleasantly weighed down with water and conditioner and for a moment, it feels longer. It hangs to the bottom of my neck and swings a little.
Once I step out and air dry my hair, hair doesn’t hang anymore. It shrinks! Many of us have felt a little cheated by this phenomenon. By the time I return to the bathroom, thirty minutes later, all I have is a damp afro. I pull down on a few of my curls and watch how they grow. This is my real length.
And of course, I had to take a moment to think about my language use. My real length? What was wrong with the length that I displayed to the world on a daily basis? It wasn’t long enough. Long enough for whom?
Sigh. I often have these minor existential meltdowns. After taking myself through the steps of self-realization. I find out:
- Length over health should not be my priority.
- My afro is boss.
- My curls are behaving the way they are suppose to behave. Changing them is telling them: “You aren’t good enough.”
Haven’t we all be told, too many times, we need to change something about ourselves? One of those things is often hair. We change hair color, length and texture in an effort to “improve” ourselves. But by putting stress on our bodies like this, we’re telling ourselves: “You aren’t good enough.” You’ve heard of self-fulfilled prophecies, right? If you tell yourself the same thing long enough, you will believe it and it will become reality for you.
My pulling on my hair this morning was that self-fulfilling prophecy tape playing in my head. It’s a tape player that doesn’t run out of batteries easily. The message said:
“You will be happier when you have long hair. That will make you a complete person. Until you have long hair, you should feel anxious and ashamed. Until you have long hair you should manipulate this ‘useless’ hair so it can fit society’s needs.”